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Sep 30, 2009 08:04 AM

Zhongzi/Joongs From Grand Street Lady w/ Pictures. Not Mei Mei, But Still Good

First let me say I had heard about this small business lady from reading about her either on this site or somewhere else on the internet. I am always willing to try something ethnic or different, no matter where I travel and I always get a kick out of purchasing something like these Chinese Tamales from someone like this very charming lady trying to make a decent living for herself, and presumably her family too....especially on the crowded streets of Manhattan and or Chinatown....although I believe the corner of Grand and Mott is technically Little least for now.

This purchase came from a result of being inspired from this recent thread:

Overall, I was happy with my purchase and would definitely seek her out again. I found them to be very good and better than some I have purchased in Chinese Markets in Chinatown or a note, these were definitely larger and cheaper than the ones I have purchased in any commercial Asian markets. These Joongs had the following ingredients in them, although the consistency of amount if each individual ingredient varied in each individual Joong/Zhong zi greatly. Not so much of a problem for me.

Glutinous Rice
Salted Duck Egg Yolk
Mung Beans
Salt Pork or Chinese Sausage.

The first couple of Joongs I simmered for 45 minutes....good, but a little hard and not very hot inside. The second time I increased the cooking time to an hour....a little better......but @ 75 minutes, they were perfectly cooked and very hot inside, as evident by the pork fat melting in the salt pork and/or Chinese Sausage.

Not the best like the ones from Mei Mei Bakery, but give her a try. I know I will again.

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  1. Thank you, thank you, thank you! These joong look very good, stuffed with filling, maybe even overstuffed.

    I just find it odd that they are sold uncooked but I can live with cooking them myself. I have tried various sidewalk vendors and there will be one good joong and one bad one. Definite consistancy issues. I'm going to try and find this vendor and try for myself but the pictures look great. Thanks for reporting back.

    3 Replies
    1. re: KTinNYC


      I am assuming they are raw at purchase and/or not fully cooked. At time of purchase and then later storing in the freezer....handling them I did not find them to be soft and greasy, which is how they are from my experience after being cooked...even when purchased cold at the markets.

      My test to see when they are ready was told to me by my friend's grandmother.....when the sticky rice starts to burst from between the's done.

      I'll defer to your expertise if the information is incorrect.

      1. re: fourunder

        I have no expertise when it comes to joong, that is for sure. It's been many years since my mother made any because it really is a lot of work to wrap them properly. I don't know if the rice bursting out of the leaves is the best way to tell if they are cooked, though. I don't recall my mother's joong looking like that and I know the pecooked joong at Mei Mei never had the rice coming from between the leaves. I think a properly made joong is like a tamale. Even fully cooked they should hold their shape but if the joong still taste good what's the difference, right?

        1. re: KTinNYC

          Even fully cooked they should hold their shape .....

          Maybe *burst* was a little strong.....

          ....but if the joong still taste good what's the difference, right?


    2. fourunder, was the woman who you bought the joong from on the SE corner of Grand and Mott, not exactly on the corner? I found a lady selling joong there on Sunday. I went quite late in the day and asked her what kind she had and she told me she just had the mung bean and pork version. I asked her if she had any with peanuts and she said she had sold out. I am so disappointed I didn't get the peanut and egg version. What time did you go to get the variety of joong? TIA.

      8 Replies
      1. re: KTinNYC


        The lady was definately on the NE corner, across from Di Palo's, right at the pole and between the fire hydrant when I purchased from her. I believe it was on a Thursday at around 1:00 PM. I arrived in the area shortly after 11:30 AM....and I made a few stops on the Eastside of Bowery before crossing over. As noted in the other thread, I purchased all ten she had left at the time. she offered me a discount , but I declined.

        There was also another street vendor next to her at the time selling something I cannot recall. I can only surmise the selling territories are not etched in stone....and whoever gets there first claims the (preferred) spot.....or their spot of preference.

        btw......can you believe we are the only two who have interest in Joongs?

        1. re: fourunder

          Actually, DH is a huge fan of joongs and we used to get them from that lady but stopped because DH didn't like them enough. Mei Mei was indeed the absolute best, and it's such a shame that they closed down. That lady you're talking about is quite a hoot. She doesn't speak any English but always had a wonderful smile and tried to engage us a lot. I felt terrible for her pre-teen daughter one day as she had to work in place of her mom. The little girl looked like she was going to die of embarrassment selling joong on the street.

          After that lady, we were getting them from A&N supermarket in Flushing for a while. I thought that the rice was a lot tastier. But we just kept picking the wrong ones as I believe they weren't labeled. After the third black bean joong, we just gave up.

          1. re: Miss Needle

            DH didn't like them enough.

            DH is a hard man to please.....


            1. re: fourunder

              He is when it comes to joong. His grandma used to make them at home. He was pretty satisfied with Mei Mei's though. I've thought about trying to make them but my laziness is getting in the way. Looks like hard work.

              1. re: Miss Needle

                He was pretty satisfied with Mei Mei's though.
                Only satisfied???? He really is a tough crowd to please...:-)

                When I read in, I believe Grub Street, the decision of Mei Mei Owners deciding to close....due to the fact none of the younger generation wanted to continue the business....and in conjunction with the owner not wanting the possibility a compromise on quality of their products and reputation......I made a special trip to stock up on their larger sized joongs...and purchased 60, which took my family about a year to finish. I remember when I found the last two at the bottom of the freezer....a pleasant find, but a sad day too.

                Here's a thread we both participated on the joongs and Mei Mei Bakery...


                Looks like hard work....

                If it will help, I've seen videos on YouTube where they show you in steps on how to make them....there may also be sites that sell Joong molds for shaping....although the Hawaiin source referenced in the threads and video are no longer available..



                Her's a pictorial for the steps...


                1. re: fourunder

                  Oh, I remember that thread! That was so sad. How wonderful that you picked up a bunch. If I had known they were closing, I would have done the same thing.

                  Yeah, DH can be sometimes difficult to please with Cantonese food. Many members of his family are cooks and grew up in a restaurant. So he was surrounded by wonderful food a lot. Makes it a bit difficult on me. : ) Seriously, he's pretty easy going and very happy with anything I cook for him at home (except for that nasty Turkish cabbage rice casserole I made -- it was in my wedding vow that I would never make that for him again). But I know he would love to eat some delicious joong again.

                  Thanks for the threads on the joongs! The pictorial is especially helpful. Wow, that pic of the joong looks better than anything I've ever had. I've always had this fantasy of doing different type of joongs. Wanted to try a version of making Korean sam gae tang (chicken ginseng red date soup) in joong form or a desi style joong. Ha! Maybe I'll jump on the hipster vendor cart bandwagon and become the joong lady. Though when I see how much work it entails ... er, maybe not. : )

          2. re: fourunder

            Great, now I have to sneak out of the office to buy joong....

          3. re: KTinNYC

            I boiled and ate my joong last night and I can give it very good marks. Better then the lady who sells them on Grand and Chrystie. The filling or liu was just mung bean and pork but the pork was quite lean and pretty plentiful. I'll have to try the other 3 i bought to test consistency of the product.

          4. Looks good but my dad makes a better one with homemade salty egg yolk, home cured salted bacon, lop churn, peanuts, and dried shrimp. I've tried Mei Mei which was fine but not as good as his. Laborious but well worth it.

            2 Replies
            1. re: DarthEater

              Unless you are willing to sell your father's joong then you are just teasing us.

              1. re: KTinNYC

                Are these the best zhongzi in manhattan's chinatown now? If so, i think I'll be walking down to grand and mott this week!

            2. From what I've read throughout this thread, here's everybody's problem: Zhongs aren't meant to be boiled or simmered. They're meant to be steamed. Boiling it totally washes it out and turns the contents to goo if you're unlucky. Although it's composed of sticky rice, it's still supposed to hold together pretty well in the steaming process. The steamer has to hold a lot of water to begin with (so you don't have to add any water mid-steam) and you've got to get the steamer going with a full head of steam *FIRST* before sticking the frozen, rock-hard zhong in there to cook for between 35 to 45 minutes. You take the lower number if you have that steam cranking away. You take the higher number if you're living somewhere up high, like in Denver, maybe even longer (water boils, thus creating steam, at a lower temperature the higher you go). That is crucial. And never, EVER let the zhong touch the water that creates the steam. The steam has to cook it through. If necessary, stick a sharp knife or a meat thermometer into the zhong--if the center is still cold, continue cooking it or you'll regret it. Severely. Think projectile hurling. Been there. Done that. No fun. Found out the "correct" way to cook zhong from back home (Far East, from the family zhong masters) after my unfortunate experience. FYI.

              23 Replies
              1. re: Gastronomicon

       mom is the family zhong maker..she make batches of DOZENS at a time. She has a giant pot dedicated to the task of boiling zhong. It takes hours...and steams up every windows in the house in the process. Mom would wrap different shapes with different knots depending on what is inside, savory or sweet.

                It's fully cooked after the boiling. She gives most away, freezing the rest.

                To reheat zhong, we steam it still wrapped and frozen. And as I always forget which shape is for what, it's always a surprise each time I open one.

                1. re: gnomatic

                  Just like your mother, my mother boiled her jeng. I also referenced two Chinese cookbooks on my shelves and both call for the boiling of the jeng.

                  1. re: KTinNYC

                    So the plural for Joong is Jeng....not Joongs? I've learned something very important today.

                    With regards to boiling or steaming of Joong/s/Jeng....I have never heard of steaming them and boiling many in a large pot was the only way I have known them to be prepared......however,

                    Lo Mai Gai (Lotus Wrapper) , is prepared by steaming.....Joong are tied with twine or small strips from the bamboo leaves. In LMG, the rice is pre-soaked then steamed before the LMG are assembled and NOT tied off with twine. If I am not mistaken, Joong call for the rice to be assembled in raw state before being wrapped and tied in twine

                    1. re: fourunder

                      Jong/Joong/Jeng/Zhong-Zi as you know are all the same thing. There is no singular or plural.

                      1. re: KTinNYC

                        Just like shrimp...ehhh. Thanks for setting the record and me straight.

                        1. re: fourunder

                          No - in Chinese they do not count nouns as in English. One book, two book for example. Once a Zhong, always a Zhong!

                      2. re: fourunder

                        With Lo Mai Gai, the rice is pre-cooked before' also a different kind of rice, it's cooked, there is a special bamboo basket used for it, and then I think it needs to be stir fried. It's quite labor intensive and hard to get the right softness..that's probably why few people make it at home, it's just easier/cheaper to buy it.

                        The rice and mung bean is soaked, but raw when making Joong. I suspect that is why it needs to tied when before boiling, the rice expands.

                        1. re: gnomatic

                          Most zhongs that I've eaten are made out of the glutinous version of rice. This includes Gnor Mai Gai. Regular rice, when steamed while wrapped up like that ends up with a different consistency. The Malays make it this way and call it "ketupat" and it's usually served along with raw onion, cucumber chunks and peanut sauce with satay in Malaysia and Singapore. It's rarely found, even in authentic Malaysian/Singaporean restaurants because, along with Otak Otak and Zhong, it's very tedious to make. Sometimes, you'll also find ketupat in Indonesian Soto Ayams and Lontongs--it actually holds together despite being served in a soup.

                          1. re: gnomatic

                            So, my question is: Is Lo Mai Gai considered Joong. Is a dish that is wrapped in the leaf and tied, what a joong is? I love Lo Mai Gai, on occasion I eat Lo Mai Fon, which seems to be Lo Mai Gai with no leave. Maybe i"m wrong, But please define Joong. I read and saw the pictures, that's why I'm confused regarding Lo Mai Gai.

                            1. re: foodwhisperer

                              lo mai gai is basically a zong zi, they taste very similar and are made basically exactly the same. the only difference i feel like is that the zong zi is packed a little tighter

                              1. re: Lau

                                From an old thread on the San Francisco board:

                                "One significant difference between joong and loh mai gai that hasn't been pointed out is that for joong, the rice is soaked but still raw while typically the rice and filling in loh mai gai have already been cooked separately to some degree before wrapping. Joong requires several hours of boiling that would reduce a loh mai gai's lotus leaf to mush. All loh mai gai needs is a bit of steaming to allow the flavors to come together."

                                Lo Mai Gai usually has rice that is more like sushi rice with more separate grains. Zong zi has rice that is more paste like.

                                1. re: Humbucker

                                  Thank you for the explanation, and thank you to Lau also.

                                  1. re: foodwhisperer

                                    I did explain this above.....: 0 ) somewhat at least.

                              2. re: foodwhisperer

                                Lo Mai Gai and Joong are similar, but not the same. Lo Mai Gai 糯米雞 translated is glutinous rice chicken. I believe there is pre-cooking before the filling is wrapped in a squarish shape using lotus leaves and steamed. The stuffing usually has chicken, Chinese mushrooms, Chinese sausage, dried shrimp and scallions. Lo Mai Fon translated is glutinous (cooked) rice, so I think it doesn't require chicken. Joong is wrapped uncooked in bamboo leaves and boiled. It has a denser consistency than Lo Mai Gai. There are different types of joong. The glutinous rice joong is typically in a tetrahedral shape and the stuffing usually includes pork and/or Chinese sausage, mung beans and/or peanuts. Additional ingredients such as the salted egg yolk, mushrooms, chestnuts, etc. will depend on the person who makes it. Joong is related to the Dragon Boat Festival, so it used to be made only around mid-May to mid-June. I'm so happy we can find it year round now =)

                            2. re: fourunder

                              Fourunder, yes thanks, somehow i missed it, A very good explanation you gave.

                              1. re: foodwhisperer

                                I was teasing......but I'm sure you know that...

                          2. re: gnomatic

                            You're correct, a large pot of boiling water is what my mom use to make zhong. Steaming process is used to make the sticky rice type dim sum dish. I buy mine from the Hong Kong market in central NJ. They are hot/warm when I purchase them.

                            If I don't eat them right away, I'll store them in the fridge for a day or so. I"ll heat them up in the microwave and add some oyster sauce for additional flavor. Yummy!

                            1. re: gnomatic

                              My family does it the way gnomatic does it. We usually simmer to reheat. For a special treat, take one that has been in the refrigerator (it is essential that it be pretty hard, otherwise it will fall apart), remove the leaves, slice into thick pieces (about a half inch thick), and then panfry on both sizes until nice and crusty on the surface and warm and chewy on the inside.

                              1. re: gnomatic

                                If you've ever taken a look at the cooking facilities at Mei Mei (before they closed permanently) where they prepared their zhong, they're all steamers. The cooking facilities used to be in a small alcove next door to Mei Mei. The Mei Mei folk also confirmed that steaming it is the way to go (I asked).

                                I've tried boiling them and what comes out is a gooey mess and not as good a steaming it. Now, if you don't have a dedicated steamer, one alternative method is to use a pot with the zhong elevated out of the water somehow either with a vegetable steamer attachment or a ceramic bowl set in the water with plate on it. This may mislead people into thinking that the zhong are just being boiled.

                                1. re: Gastronomicon

                                  I know for a fact that every family have it's own way of making Zhong, with their recipe and directions. Even within my own family my mom have to make special ones for some of us (i.e. me..the anti-peanut Zhong). Every Cantonese family I know that makes their own boil theirs.

                                  I can only speak from my own experience...I have NEVER seen a Zhong sold raw. Not by street vendors, stores in Hong Kong, Canada or the USA. You can tell by the bamboo leaves and the color of the twine.
                                  They have already been boiled by the time they are sold, and just need to be reheated.

                                  Steaming is the preferred and easiest way of reheating a frozen Zhong. Simmering is fine too, but with frozen ones, it might not get warmed through and the outter layer would be gooey.

                                  I have not been to Mei Mei, but if they are selling it out of the steamers, I think they are just reheating/keep warm already cooked ones.

                                  Pre-cooked Zhong can be frozen, and keeps for months in the freezer. Zhong were staples of my college years. I steamed them in a 5 quart stock pot with a cheap metal chinese steamer rack that lifts things off the water.

                                  1. re: gnomatic

                                    I've seen the giant pots at Mai Mai and to tell you the truth I couldn't tell if they were steamers or just huge pots filled with boiling water and jeng.

                                    1. re: KTinNYC

                                      They're steamers. I got to take a peek before they closed down for good. But "jeng" means "to steam". "Saap" means to boil. So based on what I've just clarified, first they "saap" the zhong, then you have to "jeng" it to reheat it for consumption.

                                    2. re: gnomatic

                                      Okay, this made me curious so I went and re-asked the family zhong masters. It appears you're right: The *INITIAL* cooking process is by boiling. But reheating it after it has cooled or has been frozen must be by steaming because a second boiling would destroy it. When I had asked initially, they had assumed that all zhong had already been cooked, hence they told me to only steam them. They were talking of the reheating process. I stand corrected.

                              2. Any recent sightings? I've looked for her on about three consecutive visits and not seen her, sadly!

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: cimui

                                  I have seen her and bought some jongs from her near the subway entrance to the B /D on Grand and Chrystie, on the N side.

                                  1. re: yting

                                    Has anyone seen this nice jong master since Feb 18 and where? Is this the lady who used to sell from the church that has since been converted to a senior citizen center and Chinatown museum off a Mott?

                                    Eating her jongs bought back memories of my childhood when my mother and her friends would make them during the weekend at our home. How I miss those times and how my tastebuds miss those jongs. My sister and I have tried to make them and it is very time consuming but rewarding. I would still like to purchase them from this lady though. She was better than Mei Mei!!

                                    1. re: samjam101

                                      Wanted to provide an update on the jong lady. Yes, she is now located in that section of Little Italy that has been taken over by CHinatown. The jongs were $1.50 each, big and delicious but missing the egg. Like everything else, the price has gone up and the filling has gotten less. Still a good buy!!!!

                                        1. re: Lau

                                          Sorry for the absence of a response until now. The lady was on Grand near Mott, but not on the corner. She was located in a shaded doorway along Grand. She also had a colleague on Grand but closer to Canal. My sister and I had to walk up and down Grand and Mott to locate her. Worth the effort. Have not been in Chinatown since the summer, so do not know if she is present during the winter.